Partners' Network

Phil Mickelson at Age 50 And The Value of a Putt

Phil Mickelson became the oldest person to win a major golf tournament. He was 1 month short of his 51st birthday and is considered “old.”

How old is old? We have a president that is almost 80 and he replaced a president in his 70s. Many successful surgeons are in their late 50s and early 60s and undergo a much more intensive rigor than Phil did playing golf less than five hours a day for four days. Some surgeons perform eight or nine-hour operations employing much more concentration or intensity than trying to make a 7-foot putt. Yet no one considers those surgeons old. Would you prefer a 37-year-old surgeon with more vigor? What about a criminal defense lawyer. If you were on trial for a crime with a long sentence, would you want a 35-year-old attorney with stamina or a 60-year-old with experience? If you were selling the business you started 45 years ago, would you want a 32-year-old advisor or a much older one with many such transactions under his belt?

I understand that youth is an advantage where strength, dexterity and physical agility is necessary. However, I do not believe skills, focus and concentration deteriorate as much as physical strength. However, the surgeon with an eight-hour operation is using extensive physical skills that possibly could be waning but I think the other skills would be more important, and that surgeon is not considered over the hill. Yet what Phil did at his age is considered remarkable and an anomaly. Perhaps in the golfing world and the context of its conventional wisdom and perception overrides the practicality of the possibility of success at that age. Physical strength was as we get older but many golf tournaments are won or lost by the number of drives that do not hit the fairway and by missed putts. Gary Player never came close to the strength or driving power of Phil Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, yet he won a good number of tournaments including nine major wins and his lack of comparative strength didn’t hold him back.

Irrespective of what I just wrote, what Phil did was remarkable and I was rooting for him on every stroke on every one of his last 36 holes.

Another comment is that Phil won by 2 strokes. His prize was $2,160,000. The two players that tied for second were 2 strokes behind and each received $1,056,000. Those 2 putts were each worth $552,000 each. As the tournament came to a close each missed putt was agony. However, the missed putts on the 68th and 70th holes counted the same as missed putts on the 2nd or 4th holes, just without the same agony or importance. My point here is that every shot they took counted the same, just that it might not have felt that way early on and more so later on. That leads me to comment that everything you do counts, and everything should be treated with the same careful attention and intensity. That is what, I feel, is a quality of true professionals, be they golfers, surgeons, criminal defense attorneys or M&A advisors or whatever else you do. Further your staff and clients or customers form opinions of you based on what they see when you are interacting with them. They have no way of knowing whether it was your first hole or last hole, they want to see professionalism in everything you do every time you do it. The truth of the matter is that everything does count and everything is part of the whole. Maybe not as much as $552,000 for a putt, but it could be a lost client or a decision of a client to not refer you or give you added assignments. Everything counts!

If you have any tax, business, financial, leadership or management issues you want to discuss please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected].

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